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Hardball With Chris Matthews

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Irs 15, Benghazi 14, Us 8, Susan Rice 8, Angie 7, The Irs 6, Clinton 6, Washington 6, Cia 5, Howard Fineman 4, Fbi 4, Alex 4, Dana 4, Libya 3, Dana Milbank 3, Unquote 3, John Boehner 3, David Petraeus 3, Allstate 3, Ansar Sharia 3,
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  MSNBC    Hardball With Chris Matthews    News/Business.   
   (2013) New. (CC)  

    May 15, 2013
    2:00 - 3:01pm PDT  

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good evening. i'm chris matthews in washington. let me start tonight with this. there's a dangerous narrative emerging for the president in the wake of these controversies involving benghazi, the irs and the associated press. it says he's passive and uninterested in governing. in the face of the cascade of negative stories the president seemed to lack a response. he's allowed the impression to emerge out there that, as i said last night, he's a ship with the engine turned off. well, "the washington post" dana milbank wrote the following today. president passer-by needs urgently to become a participant in his presidency. certainly a president can't know what everybody in his administration is up to. but he can take responsibility. he can fire people. he can call a stop to foolish acts such as wholesale snooping into reporters' phone calms. dana milbank joins me now, ok, along with alex wagner. thank you both for this. i think we're all of like minds
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from what i've heard. let's check our thinking about this. dana, is this president truly happy with the job description of chief executive? not senator in the white house. not thoughtful person. not good speech maker. but someone who wants to run the executive branch of the united states through either a deputy, a chief executive -- chief operating officer or some span of control? or does he like being the guy who's willing to play the role of putting out fires once in a while, but really doesn't want to be responsible day-to-day for running the whole thing? >> well, chris, it is sort of krus fra frustrating. you'd think the chief executive could do more executing. the commander in chief has been able to do it. he can knock heads. he got obama care through by hammering away over and over again. i don't know why he keeps taking his foot off the gas here. in terms of the scandals coming out now, look, the first rule in scandal management is get out in front of the story.
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make your case, put the facts in the best light, get the information out. they seem to be doing exactly the opposite. finally, slowly, they're catching up here. but somebody needs to grab them by the lapels if there's anybody in that white house capable of doing that and shake him up. >> the weird thing here, alex, i know you look at politics the way i look at it, the weird thing is the absence of the main players. where was the president when susan rice went on "meet the press"? did he call her up afterwards and say, good work, you covered my butt, you did a great job today? did he talk to her before the performance? this was her audition to be secretary of state. of course with valerie helping her and michelle obama rooting for her and everybody rooting for her on that side of the white house, and they acted like they had nothing to do with it. where was hillary clinton in prepping her for that? where's the leadership? weird, spooky language about who approved or didn't approve the talking points. leadership in the building. what kind of talk is that? why don't they say the secretary of state if they mean that?
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also, what role did hillary clinton play in all this? did we find out she was on the phone to benghazi hours after the attack and she never said so. where was tom donovan, national security adviser. all these prince paipipals step into the darkness. we're reaching around like blind people trying to find out what happened. now we're looking at their e ma mails. how about bringing the bosses in. this president faded into the wood work along with his top people it looks to me for their convenience. >> first of all, chris, i think you should be armed with a n magnifying class and sherlock holmes hat. >> who's missing from this? >> we should twodivorce two thi. i think obama is really interested in big legislation and big, quote, unquote, governance. he's not interested in big politics. >> how about big government? what he's running? >> look, i'm not disagreeing that he needs to do something. i think there is a sense of
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inkred yulty in and around these quote, unquote, scandals. >> you can call them quote, unquote, till you're 99 years old. you're not going to waste them away by saying -- by dismissing them. they are. benghazi is a murky question. it's not a scandal. you go out there and start earmarking, targeting right wing groups in the irs, bird dogging reporters, you got a scandal facing you. i'm sorry. >> look, i think there are going to be some lasting legacies out of this moment. one is, the relationship that the president and the white house have with the press corps has always been contentious. it has not been good. you see his performance at the white house correspondents dinner. there is a sort of cold reluctance to participate in the celebration of the press. he has got to have a sit-down with a paper of record. it has been four years since he has sat down with the "washington post" and "the wall street journal." three years since he sat down with the "new york times." we talk about these issues in and around national security and whistle blowing and leaks and benghazi and drones. part of the reason there isn't a
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national discussion about this is because the president has been completely -- totally reluctant to sit down with anybody and face the tough challenges on this. >> okay. that's not my job. i'm not the shop steward for the white house press corps. dana milbank, back to your point. a very strong point. it's sort of related to what you're saying, alex. who is the president's chief operating officer? how does he run the u.s. government? i'm asking something fundamental we shouldn't have to ask. who makes sure he kicks butt in all the departments? i don't think he has such a person. i don't think he wants that role for himself. >> if you'd have asked that question in the first term i would have said rahm emanuel. everybody knew you don't cross rahm or he's going to knock heads. >> why did he leave? >> he wanted to do something important like run the city of chicago. >> i wonder if that was the only reason. >> there is nobody right now in a similar position who can knock heads here. and it's just -- the blame gets shifted further and further
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down. i just spent the whole afternoon listening to eric holder saying, oh, i don't know. i was recused. it was my deputy. what can i tell you? you know what? he recused himself from this particular case involving leak. he didn't recuse himself from being a defender of the constitution and the first amendment. it just seems like everybody's free to say and do whatever they want. they're not afraid of repercussions from this coming from the top. >> you know, if you think about running a little business, a bakery, someone's stealing the doughnuts or something, alex, something simple, any met tapho you want. there's usually a boss who owns the place and then there's someone running it. i don't understand the model of this administration. weak chiefs of staff afraid of other people in the white house. some undisclosed role for valerie jarrett. unclear. a lot of floating power in the white house. but no clear line of authority. i've talked to people who've been chief of staff. they were never allowed to fire anybody so they weren't really chief of staff. i go back to the really good chiefs of staff like jim baker under reagan.
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howard baker came in afterwards when reagan blew it. they were in power. this president doesn't seem like he wants to empower any other person to speak for him or work for him. therefore he's not running the place. >> in terms of the hiring, i think it's fairly strange that the chief of staff wouldn't have hiring and firing power. i also think at the beginning of the administration in the first term, there was a sense of team of rooicifles. that has given way to a team of like minded individuals. >> sycophants. >> you can call it whatever you want. i don't think it's serving the president well. i think it would behoove him to have someone there who has a contrarian point of view. as you said, chris, who could grab his shoulders and say, listen, man. there's a fire in the hole. you've got to do something about it. >> i'm making these points a little roughly. i want to get back to the point for both of you. i'll start with you, alex. you and i think politically very similarly. i got to tell you, this could all be fixed. the problem i'm talking about is structural. it's organizational. everybody takes a job and has to do parts of the job they don't
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like as much as the other parts. he obviously likes giving speeches more than he does running the executive branch. therefore he has to find a way to run the executive branch so he can give the best speeches. that means having a really good deputy system where he has people that he trusts and gives them the power to make sure what he wants done is done. there are solutions. we've seen them with reagan who was the most hands off guy in the world. ended up having -- he knew his weaknesses. he said i need a guy like jim baker in here. nancy reagan said that. you can fix these things. >> there is some desire to fix things. there was a lot of drum beating around the fact the president had to engage with members of congress more. we've seen a concerted effort to have dinner with republicans, congressional democrats and the like. that's his olive branch to the hill. he has to obviously move in a much, much faster timetable here and get out in front of this issue now. i mean, this is -- to think this is going to be brushed aside as we go into the 2014 mid-terms is a joke. h is going to be run on. the tea party stuff, irs stuff is something that republicans will milk for years if they can. >> okay. let me go back to dana.
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because you have a rye sense of humor. what part of the presidency does obama like? he doesn't like dealing with other politicians. that means his own cabinet. that means members of the congress. either party. he doesn't particularly like the press. i think that's fair. i don't really care if he doesn't like us. i can live with that. i didn't come here to get love by him. third, what part -- he likes to write the speeches. likes to rewrite what others wrote for the first draft. what part does he like? going on the road, campaigning, visiting businesses like he does every couple days somewhere in ohio or somewhere? what part does he like? he doesn't like lobbying for the bills he cares about. he doesn't like selling to the press. does he like giving orders or giving somebody the power to give orders? he doesn't seem to like being an executive. what's he like? >> i think he likes campaign ing. he likes oratory which is important. he likes policy which is actually something you might like to have in a president. >> sure. >> because he actually does care about these details and he's smart about these things. but you're right. he does not have an enforcer in
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there to make things happen. also he doesn't seem to have the stomach for a lot of politics. you know, it's nice to be loved. but it's more important to be feared. people are just not fearing this president on capitol hill right now. part of that's by having an enforcer in there. part of that is this guy has to be more intimidating. >> how much, alex, is this second term thing? they talk about the sophomore slump in school. i guess there's a reference point like this. usually it's hubris they get in trouble for. i don't think he has hubris. i don't think he's particularly arrogant. i do think there's something that's different. do you always have people in the second term that aren't as strong as the first term that you never have a rahm in the second term? what are we talking about here? >> i don't know if i would -- look, chris, i think he came in here with a fairly ambitious agenda. we all remember the state of the union was ch was a soaring sort of progressive vision for the country. he has learned his lessons to some defwrgree about how far hen push republicans on something like immigration reform.
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tried to take a backseat in the progress. an hour ago he met with senator mccain to talk about immigration reform. he has landmark pieces of legislation i think he would like to get through. i think his own personal distaste for washington and his sense that the media, the right, the sort soft chof chartering cs been unfair about his record and accomplishments sort of makes him want to flip the off switch sometimes. i've done so much for this country. why do i need to get involved in the mud pit. >> let me tell you something. the press has generally been pro-obama. that's a fact. >> i'm analyzing what i think may be happening at 1600 pennsylvania avenue. >> alex, they over there are very uninformed about the history of presidencies. this guy has probably gotten the best press since reagan. dana, don't you think? you don't have to watch fox if you don't want to. it's there. if you don't watch fox, don't watch limbaugh, there's a lot of
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other opinion. i watch major newspapers, broadcast networks, us. cnn. where's all this antipathy towards obama? >> i don't think so. there's antipathy whenever a guy's in trouble. there's a piling on effect. i support alex's idea. i'd love to have him give interviews to "the washington post" and "new york times." but more importantly, he needs to stop assaulting the first amendment. because there's nothing that's going to turn the press against the guy quicker than snooping through their phone records. >> hold on, both you guys. dana and alex, hold on. we're going to go now to peter alexander. he's been inside the white house where he got a look at those e-mails on the benghazi talking points. peter, all yours. >> reporter: good to visit with you right now. i have about ten of those pages. there were a total of 100 documents of the benghazi e-mails. all of which were initially provided several months ago to congress according to senior administration officials. the same ones that you have seen in pieces over the last several days. i only have about ten of them here because the remaining 90 are now being faxed up to you so we can try to examine them in further detail. senior administration officials in conversations with us say
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very clearly in an effort to put this controversy to rest, echoing what the president has said, that there is no there there. that the cia, the leaders at the cia, very much agreed with the assessment of the state department and the white house that they were content that the final talking points were not scrubbed down in any way. that they believe that those did accurately nonstra lly no lly d assessment of what took place at that time on september 11th of 2012 at the mbenbenghazi diplom facility. initially referred to as a consulate. one of the specific changes referred to a stylistic at the time. we saw -- we have now copies of all 12 of the talking points. and the e-mail conversations that took place behind the scenes. there are e-mails from the cia director at the time, david petraeus, the deputy director, mike morrell. as well as e ma-mails written b
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top people at the white house as well as members at the state department. >> you mean there's been some revision now in what we know to be the case, that ansar sharia, the al qaeda group in south africa was somehow erased? take that one. the initial version of the talking points to be used by susan rice referenced ansar sharia, al qaeda group in north africa. that was taken out and the cia says now that didn't influence our information on what had happened, a lack of a terrorist reference? >> they are saying the use of the word "extremists" according to senior administration officials was a reference to terrorists in some form. it continued to have reference to spontaneous protests that had been taking place there. according to senior administration officials, their assertion is they're not using al qaeda or reference to ansar al sharia, sort of commonly referred to as an affiliate of al qaeda though some people
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would insist otherwise. nonetheless it is a terrorist organization. they say at that time it was not -- they couldn't be certain that was the case. they at no time want to prejudice the investigation already being launched by the fbi at that time. and that's why that language wasn't used at the time -- >> wait a minute. they put it in the talking points because they believed ansar sharia was involved. then they took it out because they put it in? this doesn't make any sense. it was put in by the intelligence people and then taken out by them? the other thing is, how come all those half dozen terrorist attacks that were referenced in the initial talking points were also yanked out? are they saying now they were kept in in some form because they referred to them as extremist groups or something? it looks to me like it was scrubbed. still does. >> the initial talking points we are told by senior administration officials were written by the director of the office of terrorism analysis. when those initial talking points were reviewed by a variety of people as they describe this as a snapshot in time, they say this is a process that takes place frequently. although certainly not under circumstances like what took place on 9/11 of last year. that when it went through the
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process, among the intelligence leaders who looked at these e-mails, it was the deputy cia director mike morell who had concerns that were similar to concerns independent of the state department about the language that was being used in there. and ultimately that's why the changes were made. and that the same person who created the initial talking points, that the intelligence analysts were comfortable with the final language of those talking points when they were provided to susan rice. >> who was in charge of the talking points? >> reporter: it was initially the director it shall -- as i s director of the office of terrorism analysis at the cia. it was an interagency process where multiple individuals communicated -- >> no. that doesn't make sense. somebody has to be the final word and say -- just like in a movie. who gets the final cut. somebody has to be the editor. say this is what we're putting on the air. was it the person who used the phrase "building leadership." what the heck does that mean? is that a reference to secretary
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clinton or who else? who else is building leadership at the state department. that's a phrase that jumps out at anybody's who's political. >> reporter: ultimately as we see in the e-mails, i don't have all 100 of them now, but david petraeus himself said he was fine with these i think is the exact language that's used there. ultimately he was one of the last to sign off on them before they were provided it sha ed -- >> who's the building leadership at state? >> reporter: that was hillary clinton, of course, at the time. >> it seems to odd to refer to a person. let me bring in our people. howard fineman joins us from the huffington post. mike isikoff, chief investigative reporter for nbc news. gentlemen, have at it. he's seen this stuff. you haven't. howard. >> my first thought is that the administration oddly enough would rather talk about benghazi now than either the irs or the a.p. so they're dealing with this first off because i think they think they're on the strongest ground with this. because their argument is that there was finally agreement,
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that everybody did sign off on what they did finally. and whatever the director of the office of terror analysis said initially to get the ball rolling, everybody in the end, petraeus, hillary clinton, officials in the white house all agreed on what susan rice eventually said. and that the changes that were made were made for legitimate reasons. that's their argument. that's why they're putting this stuff out. a lot of other things they don't want to put out. on this day in the middle of the sort of triple witching hour that we've got going on, they're putting this stuff out because arguably this is the easiest of the three fires for them to deal with. >> it seems, michael, those skeptical about even this latest revelation, these papers throwing at us -- throwing 100 papers to us at 5:00 at night is highly suspicious. it looks like they don't want a lot of investigation of these papers between now and filing time tonight. >> it is remarkable if i heard peter correctly that there are 100 e-mails about these talking points. i mean, it does tell you
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something about when you have government by committee. and everybody weighing in on what ultimately was, you know, a couple of paragraphs by susan rice. you're going to get this kind of mishmosh. i'm at a bit of a handicap because we haven't actually seen it yet. one thing that strikes me is this is something they probably should have done months ago, could have done months ago. why they have to wait this long is -- >> the republican contention, let's do it in broad strokes, was that the government of this administration was concerned that this looked like terrorism right before the election. they were trying to squash any notion we still faced a major terrorist threat, especially from an al qaeda organization. that fits still within the way we're getting this information. it still fits what we're seeing. they've all agreed to play down this group. they've all agreed to do this. who was agreeing to who? who was really fighting it? somebody could have said the state. okay, you really don't want this done so we won't do it.
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>> one preliminary detail to the release of these 100 e-mails is there's some question about one of the e-mails of ben rhoades, speech writer turned foreign policy analyst in the white house that may have been misinterpreted by one news organization. it's not as damning as it migh have been. let's put the rest out so people can see this was an honest discussion kno discussion. nobody was talking about how will this affect the campaign. don't forget this did take place in the middle of the campaign. one of the president's key arguments was he has vanquished al qaeda. it would have been inconvenient politically to say the least for their suddenly to be an al qaeda flare-up in libya which there were questions about whether we should have been involved in from the beginning. so i think there was certainly -- >> by the way, i watched that "meet the press." this isn't something foreign to me. i thought susan rice did a bang up job. in fact, after it was over, i said she's just pretty much nailed down the secretary of state job. she's defended the administration.
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she did it with great power and authority. it was a compelling case she made. i would assume that after she made that performance, he got calls from everybody including the president saying, good work. that's what's so ironic about this. >> except that the president said in his press conference the other day, three days later we went up and told them the correct story. by the way, one other thing. go back -- >> in other words, he honored her for offering a cover story. >> three days later they told a different story on the hill. i would say one other thing. go back to the videotape of the president on monday. he said -- he said at the beginning of his press conference, well, we acknowledged at the beginning that this was terrorism. >> so subtly that mitt romney and his entire campaign missed it. >> i know. but my ears perked up at the word "acknowledged." he's saying, hey, wait a minute. we acknowledged this at the beginning. think back. why would he use -- it may sound picky. why would he use that word? because he knows that there's
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controversy over what they said when. >> yeah. >> and he's saying, look, we acknowledged that it was terrorism. >> we at no tididn't lead with description. >> all that being true, i mean, i don't think anybody really thinks it would have been a game changer if they were totally up front -- >> when you lose an election, anything can be a game changer. that's why the republicans are roused on this issue. >> what we know about the e-mails so far, again, we haven't seen these, but what has come out is what -- inevitably it's not what you think it is. what we saw was this bureaucratic clash between the cia and the state department over whether the cia was trying to -- >> let me ask you a question about the way the government works. why was this done by staff? why wasn't the national security adviser, tom donlan, great political mind, he could have solved all these problems and done it his way, why wasn't he on the phone with hillary clinton knocking out the language? why were there 100 e-mails going
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back and forth? why weren't the prince pipals involved? or were they involved in separate phone calls? you don't think hillary clinton cared about how it was tri described? all this discussion about somebody named victoria nuland. why that? >> interesting to see the blind copies on the e-mails. >> i find it's one of these cases in politics where they know what they've done. the president was watching susan rice basically audition for the job of secretary of state that sunday. i'm sure he was glowing in his support for her before and after. all of a sudden the whole thing came apart. i think that's why he's so angry about this issue. i think he's angry at the press and at the right because of somehow bringing down his choice initially for secretary of state. his wife's choice, valerie jarrett's choice. we know all this. it's all public information. >> you remember when we said at one point, the president said when people are attacking susan rice. >> they're attacking me. >> he said if you've got a problem, don't attack her.
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attack me. come after me. >> what was that about? >> well, that was sort of, i thought, about defending susan rice. but if you're cynical, you might say that that was -- that was the sure sign that susan rice was about to be set out to sea, which she was. >> yeah. where's this all heading? >> you know, it's hard to say. >> can you get it off the table? >> i don't think the talking points themselves are the issue. >> john boehner, speaker of the house, number two political man of this town says this is going to be his mission statement. >> chris, the reason why -- let's remember, the reason why the republicans are doing this is not the talking points, per se. it's that they want to take down the notion that barack obama has been a good, aggressive fighter of terrorism. because he took away the defense -- the strong on defense card from the republicans after a generation. and they're angry at it. and they're looking for any way to take it back. >> fair enough. >> but the political undercurrent here is about hillary clinton. there have been disclosures here
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that have not been helpful for the hillary cause. cheryl mills calling the deputy chief omission in libya -- >> look how upset she is. i have to make a big announcement. this is a strange way to put out the story. we always talk about friday nights being the garbage dump. the president is going to be coming out at 6:00 tonight with a statement on irs, the irs, and what discipline action taken apparently against two officials there at the irs. under the leadership, perhaps, of jack lu. here's the president trying to clear the deck in one night. he's going to do benghazi. did it at 5:00. the irs at 6:00. this may be too much. the bum's rush. howard, you're laughing. >> i'm not laughing. what i'm saying is they put out these e-mails because they would rather be thought of as a white house full of institutional infighting. which is what they're advertising here. >> i see. >> than one that was nefariously trying to twist the truth in an election. >> my god. >> and if they had stayed true to their pledge of transparency,
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they would have put this out a long time ago and a lot of this would have been an old story by now. >> so in the end i want to get back to a conversation i began tonight. you are pro. how does this all come to be, this firestorm of benghazi and irs and fbi investigations on the associated press? i call it the tp, talking points. the -- what's the other group called? >> patriots? >> patriots and tea party. the tp and the a.p. how does it come together? what does it say about our administration, this government? >> well, i -- i think it's coincidence except for the fact that what happens is, in an election some things that you would otherwise look at, you don't look at because it's in election. paradoxically the time you should be looking during the campaign you don't, because everybody says, oh, that's just politics. then after the election season, that's when things that you
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didn't focus on enough during the campaign get focused on. if you had -- if this tea party story had emerged during the midst of the campaign, that would have been interesting. but it would have been politics, not investigation. >> but the legs, i think, to the irs story is it did come up during the campaign. it came up last year. all these tea party groups were writing republican members of congress who wrote letters to the irs saying what's going on here? getting back all these answers from high level officials at the irs that don't provide a whiff of this. i think where this is going to go is why did you cover this up? why didn't you disclose when we wrote you letters? what's going on here? you didn't tell us you had a problem of this nature. that's where it's -- >> i totally agree with mike. what happens during the midst of a campaign, any questioning, any criticism is easily dismissed as politics. that it's the middle of the
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campaign. it gets drowned in the noise of the campaign. >> that's what happened to watergate, by the way. >> yes. that's exactly what happened. that's exactly what happened. >> the a.p. story, which really bothers a lot of beat reporters at the white house, that's going to have legs, too. >> yeah. i think they have yet to explain why they would have done this in secret. why they couldn't have done it the way the guidelines call for. we're talking about the subpoena for those a.p. phone records. where in the past they've gone to news organizations and disclosed and said we need these and there's a court battle and let a judge decide. they decided they didn't want to do it that way. i think that's what's disturbing to a lot of people. >> the president has rattled the cage of a lot of people this week. the right of the tea party. everybody in the republican party on the talking points. now he's going after associated press. the one news organization everybody in our business needs and uses. every newspaper and radio station in the country. thank you, howard fineman. thank you, michael isikoff. i'm sure i'll see you later this evening. up next, big questions remain, of course, about the irs scandal. the biggest, will the scandal stick? of course that question we just
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heard. did the top people over there cover it up when they were asked about it by members of congress. by the way, president obama, as i said, make a statement tonight at 6:00 eastern. coming up in a half hour now on this network as well as other networks. but this is the place to watch. this is the place for politics. [ kitt ] you know what's impressive?
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and because usaa's commitment to serve military members, veterans, and their families is without equal. begin your legacy, get an auto insurance quote. usaa. we know what it means to serve. i'm hampton pearson with your cnbc market wrap. the dow gained 60 points to close at another new high. the s&p adds eight points. also finishing at another record. the nasdaq is up nine. cisco shares are rallying after hours. the company's quarterly earnings and revenue were better than forecast. meanwhile, google launched its own online music service. the stock finished above $900 a share for the first time ever. home builder sentiment rose in may as home prices soared. that's it from cnbc, first in business worldwide. now back to "hardball."
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welcome back to "hardball." breaking news tonight. the president plans to make a statement, a national statement on the irs scandal at the top of the hour. that's 6:00 eastern time. earlier this afternoon we learned a senior irs official has told congressional officials that two cincinnati employees in the irs have been, quote, disciplined, closed quote, for singling out tea party and conservative fwruative groups ar tax exemption. we don't know what the discipline entails. detailing findings of bad practices and bad management. some news here. the president called these issues intolerable and inexcusable. perhaps the most damning headline came from "usa today." i saw it. it popped out at me. look at it. there it is. irs gave a pass to liberals. that's the heart of why this story probably has legs and not yus on the right. quote, in the 27 months that the
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internal revenue service put a hold on all tea party applications for nonprofit status -- this is from the "usa today" headline story -- it approved applications from similar liberal group. a "usa today" review of irs data shows groups with liberal names were approved in as little as nine months. groups like progress or progressive. they engaged in the same tax status and engaged in the same types of activities as the conservative groups. dan rather and david corn is an msnbc political analyst and washington bureau chief for mother jones. dan rather, an honor to have you on. this story, how would you gauge it in megatonnage? the fact the irs was playing favorite, apparently? >> well, on a ten scale it's somewhere between a six and seven. has the potential of going higher. no question this will have more legs, whatever the president does tonight. however decisive he appears to be, this isn't going to end it. the question gets down to who
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knew what when. how high up in the obama administration. i wouldn't be surprised, chris, to see eventually a special prosecutor named in this case, an independent prosecutor look into the case. this is series. the republicans from their own partisan political standpoint, they can look like a deacon with four aces here because the way this is playing out. this is trouble with a capital "t" for the president. it would be a mistake to underestimate it. >> my question, this is always good to try to do this. no matter what our points of view are when we get around to editorializing around here. suppose this happened under cheney and bush. toy that in the right order, by the way. suppose we found out the irs under those blokes was going in and systematically denying tax breaks to all the groups that -- the progressive groups. call them the good guy groups. systemically giving a pass to
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everyone on the right wing groups. would you assume cheney and scooter and the whole groud didn't get their fingers somewhere in the irs? you wouldn't assume it. you you'd want an investigation. >> we do know they targeted the naacp. >> what was the disciplinary action? >> they went after julian bond at one point. >> yes. when he was at the naacp. the "usa today" piece said the irs fwagave lib rams a paserals. they didn't give them a pass. they treated them differently. >> suppose you discovered this was a reverse case under a right wing administration. >> you'd want an investigation. we've had one investigation already. the inspector general of the treasury the president said in the report that came out a couple days ago, he said that there was no evidence that he found of outside intervention from the irs. so that means the white house wasn't involved. >> carney said that the other
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day, by the way, authoritati authoritatively. here's the politics. house speaker john boehner today said he wants more than just resignations. let's take a listen to what boehner has to say. he is loaded for bear here. >> the irs has admitted to targeting conservatives. even if the white house continues to be stuck on the word "if." now, my question isn't about who's going to resign. my question is, who's going to jail over this scandal? >> okay. there you have it, dan rather. and you've got jail time talking about. boehner there looks like this is his ticket to ride to unite the republican party center right all the way to extreme right. they all agree they hate taxes, hate the irs, hate obama. here's a chance to put them all in a happy -- what do you call it? mystery tour. they may not know what anybody did wrong. they want to nail them and hang them and put them in prison. >> exactly. you're going to hear a lot of
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this, chris. because this is a three-way win for boehner and for the republican party. in ways it's been handed to them. number one, they can continue to block any real progress made by president obama in his second term. that's a good deal of what all benghazi and this are about. secondarily, it gives them a chance to reunite with the pea partiers. they were worried about the 2014 elections because they were -- had been estranged from the tea party. now the solidarity with the tea party. the third thing, of course, by the way, they also touch on chances for hillary clinton to run in the next presidential election. so it's a three-way win for the president. there'll be a lot more of this rhetoric about, listen, it isn't just a case of resignations. we want people going to jail. and that's going to have some resonance. it will go for a while. >> there's two different questions here. we get them confused. i thi i think the president does, too. it's not whether he's responsible did the president in the white house call somebody in the irs and say tag team, let's go after the right wingers.
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it's, in fact, if anybody in the government does something that's political, especially tainting left, the president's got to deal with it. the smart president sends the word out there ahead of time, i'm playing it straight. it seemed there were a lot of hours the last day. he's going to deal with this 6:00 tonight. yesterday i got the feeling he's a little slow on the ball sfwl i think rhetorically he could have been more emphatic. even though under the law, thanks to richard nixon, the white house cannot communicate with the irs about tax matters. >> who do they work for? >> the irs? >> who do they work for? >> it's an independent agency. part of the executive branch. the white house doesn't have control over it. >> that leads to all the right wing par knanoia about the irs. >> it comes because of the true paranoia of what richard nixon t did. he's ham strung. that doesn't mean rhetorically he can't take the lead. all day today i got tweets from
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marco rubio demanding an investigation. this is after eric holder already announced a criminal investigation. right wing will keep saying we want more. we want matter what the president does. >> i'm trying to be a typical citizen. if i'm making 50 a year, 40 a year, lucky enough to run a small business or in some management position, i toedon't like taxes. they take a chunk of my income. i see my full paycheck and what's left of it. i don't like them but at least they're roughly fair because i know what the tax rates are and the rich have to pay a lot more percentagewise and i can live with that. now it's like my church when you find out the priests messing around with their weird stuff. wait a minute, i didn't mind the church temtelling me they're ber than me, but when i find out there's hypocrisy, there really are bad people, all right, i'll pay my taxes, but maybe i won't be quite as clean as i was last
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year. i'm just wondering, the attitude of people. they'll feel like a chump. that's the scary part about the irs. it gives license to people already inclined not to pay ball with our country. >> bingo. that's the reason this is so dangerous for president obama and his administration. this is turning out to be the little sh"little shop of horror him. which is to say he tries to get in front of it, the more he tries to deal with it, the greater it grows. this has real legs as you said at the opening, chris. it'll be very interesting to see where it goes. i'll be surprised if we don't wind up with many calls to have an independent special investigation. >> dan, you know why nixon never came clean. because he knew so much of it. he had ordered the breaking in of brookings. he had all these things, all those guys, all his henchmen, knew so much on him he couldn't even give away the burglary and say i didn't order that if he didn't. because he had so much stuff. like fibber mcgee's closet.
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he had so much crap. if any of it got out, he'd be gone. obama, i think, is clean. what has been his hesitance to put this behind him? it's the old question. when in todoubt, put it out. why is he taking so much time to put it out? >> i think he and those around him feared what might happen is exactly what is happening. you put your finger on it. h talked about transparency in his first presidential campaign and the second campaign. but they haven't been that transparent. if they were transparent about this from the beginning, they'd be in much better shape now than they are. but the answer to your question whether you're republican, testimony, mugwump, whatever. it's in the nature of politicians when there's bad news, they want to cover up the bad news. and also they have the belief that they actually can cover it up. and on both instances, of course, they're wrong. >> thanks to guys like you, david, we're learning a lot about what goes on in the back room. the way they talk. the way they attack and ridicule the 47%. the way people are in politics. >> i don't think this is an effort on the part of the white
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house to cover up anything. >> i don't think the president did anything wrong here. >> i think they were blind sided. i don't see any evidence this is a white house scandal yet. >> the only one that gets to him, i think, holder, a close co compadre of his, recused himself. >> i doubt when the pew poll comes out next week, whenever it cops out, i don't think a lot of americans are sitting there wringing their hands over the a.p. for good or bad. they want to see jobs and other things. >> i was talking about wrong or right. >> no, no, no. in terms of wrong, you and i and the press have our reasons for saying it was wrong. this is something that deserves attention. >> what i said -- by the way, on benghazi, i think it's all about intramurals worrying about what michelle obama thinks. what valerie jarrett thinks. hillary clinton. there's so many personalalties in this with their own sensitivities. like clearing those talking
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points. they had to get something everybody afwrgreed on. now everybody's being tagged for this. >> one product i think the white house has, it may be a product of the world we live in. everything goes from zero to ten. nothing's in between. republicans get out there and try to turn everything into a gate because they're just throwing things up against the wall hoping one thing sticks and they don't have to deal with immigration reform. right? >> what would you rather deal with? >> if i was john boehner i know what i'd rather deal with, yes. >> sometimes ten is more fun than six. dan, you say six to seven for irs. we'll see if the thermometer rises. dan raet president obama expected to make the statement on the scandal of the irs, the one i think he has nothing to do with coming up at 6:00 eastern. we'll be right back. [ children laughing ]
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and let the good life in. guess what? mark sanford is the newest member of the united states congress. congressman sanford was sworn in late today. there he is on the house floor. looks like he's having fun. by the way, political comeback is under way for sanford. the former republican governor of south carolina which he was. he went missing while in office to be with his argentinian mistress. sanford defeated democrat elizabeth colbert busch by nine points in a special election just last week. seems like old news already, doesn't it? we'll be right back.
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we got a big news making event coming up at 6:00. we're look agent the white house briefing room. the president is going to enter that room and make a statement at the irs scandal coming up the top of the hour, 6:00 eastern. we think it has something to do with disciplinary measures taken against the people who apparently violated the rules of the irs. david corn is back with us as well as huffington post director of news and all great things, howard fineman. three great people. you've all got a point. howard, let's start with you. looking right up the wire. this is like a treasure-trove of stuff on these e-mails that have
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just been handed out to the press. >> one thing that comes up right away. >> sure. >> just to jump in on this. it is clear as you start reading through this that even though the director of terrorism investigation for the cia said, hey, let's put al qaeda in here in these talking points. the general counsel says of the cia says i know we're in a hurry to get this out but we need to hold off long enough to ascertain whether or not providing that kind of information conflicts with instruction from the fbi and the department of justice in light of the criminal investigation. >> was this a criminal case in libya? >> it could become one. we are not to generate statements with assessments as to who did this, even internally. certainly not to mention in public release. so this is a cia guy. he is not a political guy. he is not some guy in the white house saying, hey, wait a minute. this is the cia general counsel.
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>> did he say don't call it a terrorist attack? >> not in so many years but that's clearly the import. >> the language is pretty stark. it says we know extremists with ties to a.q. participated in the attack. which complies -- which implies complicity in the deaths of the american officers. >> that's from this guy who is the director of terrorism analysis. >> that's pretty stark. >> before it was drafted by the analysts. the points were drafted by analysts who said, this is the best information we have now. when it come to what you're going to put out publicly, that's a different type of question. because the general counsel has a concern. they're going after the prosecutions. we may not want to tip them off as david petraeus had a evidence the. as we go through these 100 pages of emarlgs it doesn't support the gop theory of the case. >> which is the white house saying, oh, my god, we've got to
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tamp this down to help obama win the election. >> you think this is smart. >> no question they took out in the editing process, obviously no question. nobody disgraes that they took out references to al qaeda, et cetera. the question is why did they do it? the thing that i just read from the general counsel was, that's because the d.o.j., the department of justice, the fbi who will handle the investigation don't want us saying anything publicly or even internally. >> let's take this, they didn't want to mention al qaeda or the previous attacks. why did they continue to say through the mouth of susan rice on "meet the press", that it was basically a demonstration that evolved into a terrorist attack. why are they still trying to play down it was terrorism? >> i talked to someone involved in the drafting of the talking points earlier today. the explanation is that we still didn't clearly know there was conflicting information -- >> why did obama say it was terrorism. >> the attacks happened after
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the attacks on cairo. people forget about this. the attacks on the cairo embassy were real. a dozen others were attacked at the same time. it was only after those attacks and the operating assumption of some people involved was the guys in benghazi saw what was happening, hey, now is our time. round up the boys. so it did kind of merge together a couple days after the fact. they're still trying to sort it out. it doesn't seem to be, even if they got it wrong, you don't see any guilty intent. >> was there any demonstration at the benghazi facility that preceded the terrorist attack? >> apparently not. >> but they say there was. >> they got that wrong. >> after all this 100 e-mails, they got that wrong. 100 pages of e-mails, michael, that fundamental fact that it was not a demonstration that evolved into an attack. it was an attack. >> it doesn't speak well for the intelligence community and what they knew. >> or what they were willing to say. >> the idea that it will
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prejudice the fbi investigation seems a bit of a stretch and shall we say, over cautious. >> the idea the fbi investigation drives the conservatives in this country crazy of. >> this is not, this is like all the actors coming out from behind the curtain. you don't know still what is behind the curtain. you don't know who the general counsel talked to before he wrote this e-mail. >> the president of the united states, the national security. we'll be right back with more as we wait for the president's statement at 6:00 in five minutes. rmer. i'm also a survivor of ovarian and uterine cancers. i even wrote a play about that. my symptoms were a pain in my abdomen and periods that were heavier and longer than usual for me. if you have symptoms that last two weeks or longer, be brave, go to the doctor. ovarian and uterine cancers are gynecologic cancers. symptoms are not the same for everyone. i got sick...and then i got better.
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we're back. we've only got a few minutes before the president takes that podium to explain what actions have been taken in the last 24 hours to deal with the infractions, i think the president will call them, at the internal revenue service and what he's done about them. will the heads have rolled enough to satisfy public anger or not? joining me, david corn, howard fineman and michael isikoff all looking into these papers just released by the white house to deal with these e-mails that were all put together by various agencies of the government to try to explain what should be explained about that attack on our facility in benghazi back several weeks before the election last year. and still trying to figure that out. has anybody come up with something we ought to know? >> i find it really interesting. in one of the later iterations, you have the cia in their version of the talking points still talking about a violent
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demonstration with islamic extremists being part of it. so the whole notion, whether it was wrong or not. the idea of blaming it on a demonstration that the white house was doing this to get away from calling it terrorism. it is not the white house introducing demonstration into these talking points. it is the -- >> they shut down the republican call for action. >> of course not. they still find a way to make this impeachable. they won't find anything here but they'll say we don't have all the information and they'll keep coming one reasons. >> the republican party believed they were somehow jipped out of winning the election. i know it is a strong statement them got a bad call because the president and his people decided to cover up a terrorist attack and make it look like the president had things under control in terms of national security. they say if we had known the full reality of benghazi, it was a terrorist attack against an undefended facility. obama would have looked so weak he might have lost the election. >> remember the debate. >> i know. but nothing i've read here so
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far would support that theory. as a matter of fact, and i haven't gotten to the higher-ups in this e-mail chain yet. when the general counsel says, hey, wait a minute, we shouldn't be mentioning al qaeda here. he is presumably not doing that for political reasons. >> right now, the president is just minutes away. politics nation with al sharpton starts right now. >> thanks, chris. and breaking news from the white house. president obama is about toik ma a statement on the irs controversy where officials are accused of selecting conservative groups for extra scrutiny. the president met with officials from the treasury department which oversees the irs. late this afternoon. earlier today attorney general eric holder testified about how he's ordered a criminal investigation into the irs controversy. joining me now,